By Hader Glang
On citizens identification card system in Sulu
Interestingly, the MILF posted a similar report in its website, quoting a Tausug schoolteacher in Patikul who said "this is to Christianize us silently or at least to insult us being Muslims for carrying the sign of Christianity wherever we go, even inside mosques." According to report, the ID bears the symbol of the cross, which is at the center of the card near the star symbol.
After reading both articles, I had to ask myself if the launching of ID system has President Gloria Arroyo government's blessing? Was it a part of conspiracy of Philippines with US' national identity card system being instituted throughout the world? Or Sulu is being transformed into a "Gulag" state in which the Tausug citizens' sovereignty and independence are gradually eliminated?
These questions may sound a bit naive or silly in light of all the on going critical issues rocking Lupah Sug (Land of Sulu), the military's crackdown on the elusive Abu Sayyaf militant group and MNLF's Habier Malik faction, and of course the upcoming joint RP-US Balikatan Exercise on February 18, which is obviously opposed by Muslims in Mindanao.
But when we look back at the past, we see in clearer picture the things the US and its close ally Philippines on what they have done after the 9/11 terror attacks. In fact, the government of President Gloria Arroyo revived the national ID system plan sometime in 2003, seven years after the adoption of former President Fidel Ramos in 1996.
There was public uproar in that time and the Supreme Court in 1998, upon the petition of a civil liberty minded senator, aborted it when it decided that the presidential order was unconstitutional because "…A.O. No. 308 pressures the people to surrender their privacy by giving information about themselves on the pretext that it will facilitate delivery of basic services."
Subsequently, few days after the simultaneous terrorist attacks in New York World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, President George Bush Jr. also revived the so-called decade proposals for a national identity card system all over the world as a way to monitor and detect every movement and transaction of every citizens suspected of terrorism or of crime.
I can't blame if the Tausug citizens are suspecting that there is hidden agenda behind the issuance of IDs because it was abrupt and no due consultation whatsoever over the ID system. Based on reliable sources, the military supported by the provincial government directly imposed the ID card system on the people against their will.
As what Sulu 2nd District Congressman Munir Arbison, a Tausug administrator lawmaker, said the ID system implementation was only done through a local executive act and does not have the concurrence of the Provincial Board by way of a resolution authorizing the provincial governor to implement it.
Another Tausug, who requested anonymity, also asserted in his text message sent to me, "The ID system imposed on us is unconstitutional and discriminatory." He did not elaborate but called on his fellow Tausugs to oppose it being implemented in the 19 municipalities of the province with Patikul town as a model or pilot project.
Another source claims that the ID system would certainly not prevent terrorism because the citizen card is only as good as the information that establishes identity in the first place. Terrorists and criminals will continue to be able to obtain -- by legal and illegal means -- the documents needed to get a government identification card.
Besides, it would create a false sense of security because it would enable individuals with a card -- who may in fact be terrorists -- to avoid heightened security measures. And it would be very expensive for the provincial government, which lack the resources necessary to fund the implementation of the ID card system.
Let me cut short this long story…why impose the ID system that could only foster discrimination or exploitation by tyrannical leaders to oppress people whom they consider as threat to their continued rule? The people of Sulu have suffered so much since time immemorial. They're very right in saying there are more effective methods to prevent terrorism but not the ID system.